While you can cook beans in the slow cooker or Instant Pot, simmering beans on the stovetop after you soak them gives you the best beans. Cooked pinto beans are great to eat on their own or in recipes, and they have a lot of fiber and protein. You can use cooked pinto beans to make chili, bean soup, homemade refried beans, and stews.
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In Latin cuisine, the Deep South of the United States, and some other cultures around the world, pinto beans are a beloved staple ingredient. You’ll find pinto beans in many different dishes and recipes.
You can cook this pinto beans recipe in the slow cooker or even the Instant Pot pressure cooker. However, we’re going to show you how to cook pinto beans the old-fashioned way on the stovetop. We’ll also share a quick-soaking option if you can’t soak your beans overnight.
Wash and Sort the Pinto Beans
Back in the olden days, home cooks said to wash your pinto beans six times. Certainly, you can do that, but we find that a thorough washing can be done once as long as you do a good job of cleaning your beans and picking out the bad or broken ones.
Place the pinto beans in a colander in your sink and pick through them thoroughly them to find any broken beans. Also, remove any debris you find. If you see beans that have turned black, remove those and discard them. They don’t cook up well.
Soak the Beans
Sometimes, we make a big pot of pinto beans without soaking the beans overnight or with a quick soak. If you’re cooking in a slow cooker or Instant Pot, you can cook unsoaked beans. Your beans will still turn out to be delicious, but it takes them much longer to cook.
For cooking beans on the stovetop, you need to either do a quick soak or soak them overnight for between 8 and 24 hours.
If you want to cook your beans on the same day, that’s no problem. You can do that because there’s a quick-soaking method.
After you’ve cleaned your beans and removed any that were broken or blackened, add 8 cups of water, the clean beans, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt to a large pot or Dutch oven (or large bowl). Stir well until all of the salt has dissolved.
On the stovetop, bring the beans to a rolling boil and allow them to boil for 2 minutes. Then, turn the burner off and place a tight-fitting lid on the pot. Let the beans sit and soak for an hour. Then, drain the beans in a colander in the sink. Rinse well, and then you can proceed to the cooking step.
The traditional way to soak beans is to let them soak for at least 8 hours and as long as 24 hours. To do an overnight soak, place the dried and washed pinto beans, 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt, and cold water into a large bowl.
Allow the pinto beans to sit in the water for at least 8 hours or as long as 24 hours. After soaking your beans, put them in a colander and rinse them under cold running water. Then, proceed to the next step of cooking pinto beans.
How to Cook Pinto Beans on the Stovetop
Once your beans are cleaned and have soaked the requisite amount of time, it’s time to cook them.
Add the beans, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 4 cups of water to a Dutch oven or large cooking pot. Bring the beans to a low boil, then turn the burner down to low heat and let the beans simmer.
You need to stir your beans every 30 minutes to make sure they’re not sticking to the bottom. When beans stick to the bottom, they can scorch. Once a pot of beans scorches, you pretty much have to throw it out because the beans will taste burnt.
It will take your beans between 1 and 1 1/2 hours to be fully cooked. At this point, they’ll be creamy in texture and super tender. Season them with black pepper and sea salt, and you’ve got delicious beans to enjoy or serve as bean soup or use in recipes.
How Long to Cook Pinto Beans
The amount of time it will take to cook this pinto bean recipe means depends on your cooking method and the soaking method. Here are some guidelines. Fresh pinto beans don’t require soaking.
- Standard Pinto Bean Soaking: Soak beans in salt and cold water for between 8 and 24 hours.
- Quick Soaking: Cover beans with hot water and soak for 1 hour.
- Stovetop Cooking: After soaking, the cook time is 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- Pressure Cooking (Instant Pot): For Instant Pot pinto beans, cook pressure cooker pinto beans for approximately 1 hour. To pressure cook pinto beans, no soaking is needed, and Instant Pot beans are tender.
- Slow Cooker: After soaking the beans, cook Crock Pot pinto beans on low (6-7 hours) or high (4 hours). You don’t have to soak beans to make slow cooker pinto beans, but if you don’t, you’ll need to slow cook dried beans on high for between 8 and 10 hours.
How to Enhance the Flavor of Pinto Beans
While it’s great to cook a pot of pinto beans to use in recipes, you can also make a delicious pinto bean soup. For cooking pinto bean soup, you can use garlic (or garlic powder), bell peppers, chopped onion, hot peppers, and minced garlic.
Saute all of the veggies in extra virgin olive oil, then add them to the beans. Spices for bean soup can be cumin, smoked paprika, chili powder, coriander, oregano, thyme, or bay leaves.
For a Mexican bean soup or Mexican pinto beans, use adobo sauce, cumin (or chili powder), and add a can of Rotel tomatoes. If you don’t have Rotel tomatoes, you can use regular canned tomatoes and some diced green chilis. You can also use canned beans to make this perfect pinto beans recipe. Canned pinto beans sometimes have a tinny flavor, so be sure to rinse them.
If you add tomatoes to your bean soup, add them at the end of the beans’ cooking time. The acid in tomatoes can make the beans tough because the water doesn’t make its way into the centers of the beans to make them soft.
For even more flavor in southern pinto beans, cook your pinto beans with smoked neckbones, diced bacon, or a ham hock. You can also use leftover ham to add flavor and protein to your beans. You can also cook pinto beans in chicken broth or vegetable broth.
Storing Cooked Pinto Beans
Cooked pinto beans will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can also freeze your cooked pinto beans. Spoon the beans and a little bit of the cooking liquid (optional) into airtight freezer containers.
When ready to use in recipes, remove the beans from the freezer and allow them to thaw in the fridge. You can also microwave the beans to defrost them.
Salt and Pinto Beans
Many old-school cooks believe that salting beans at the beginning of cooking time will make the cooking dried beans tough. However, we like soaking our pinto beans in salted water because it improves the flavor of the beans.
When you soak your beans with salt, the skin on the outside of the beans becomes more tender, and the finished center of the beans will be creamier. The water molecules and sodium create a briny flavor that moves into the legume.
How to Cook Pinto Beans
- 2-3 quart saucepan or large Dutch oven
- You need these ingredients for the soaking and quick-soaking steps.
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. kosher salt
- 1 cup dried pinto beans
- 8 cups room temperature or cold water
- These ingredients are for the actual cooking of the beans.
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 4 cups water
Quick-Soaking and Traditional Soaking Pinto Beans
- Clean the Beans: Place the dry pinto beans in a colander. Sort through the beans, discarding any broken or rotten beans. Once you've picked out the bad dried beans, rinse them under cold running fresh water for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Overnight Soaking: Add the water, pinto beans, and kosher salt to a large bowl. Cover the beans and let them sit for between 8 and 24 hours before you cook them. Drain the pinto beans in a colander in the sink, rinsing them well. Follow the instructions below (Cooking Pinto Beans) to cook your beans.
- Same Day Cooking (Quick Soak Beans): For the quick soak method, place beans, 8 cups of water, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of kosher salt to a large Dutch oven or saucepan. Stir until the salt is dissolved. Bring the beans to a boil and boil them for 2 minutes. Turn the burner off and place a cover on the Dutch oven. Allow the beans to soak for 1 hour. Drain the beans in a colander in the sink and rinse the pinto beans thoroughly before cooking them. Discard the soaking water.
Cooking Pinto Beans
- Add 4 cups of cold water, the soaked beans, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt to a Dutch oven or large saucepan.
- Over medium heat, bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat so that the water is simmering.
- Cover the pot and reduce to low heat. To make sure your pinto beans don't stick to the pot's bottom, stir them occasionally (at least every 30 minutes). If beans stick to the bottom of the pot, they can become scorched, and the beans will be ruined because the scorched flavor will seep into the entire pot of beans.
- Cook the soaked beans gently over low heat until they're creamy and tender. This step will take between 60 and 90 minutes. If you want even creamier beans, use a potato masher to mash some of the beans in the pot. Then, stir well to mix the mashed beans with the rest of the beans.
- Drain the cooked beans if desired, and serve the beans while warm or hot. If you want to have bean soup, don't drain the beans.